Like many other longtime iPhone users, I had been clinging protectively to my unlimited data plan, a legacy plan from AT&T. Unlimited data for $30 a month. What’s not to like?
But I read with interest Chris Pirillo’s story about how and why he let go of the unlimited data security blanket for his iPhone and chose AT&T’s hotspot plan ($45 a month) instead. While Chris is now limited to 4GB of data transfer a month, he can use his iPhone to create an instant WiFi hotspot for an iPad or laptop. (Chris points out that this saves him having to pay for a data plan for the iPad.)
Chris calculated that he could get by on 4GB of data transfer a month. That motivated me to take a look at my own numbers — which is pretty easy to do.
To check your data usage patterns:
- Go to your AT&T wireless account and log in.
- Under My Usage Summary, click Analyze Past Usage.
- In Create a Report, select as your Report “Data Usage Trend.”
- Set the Bill period start date to the first month of your account and the Bill period end date to the current month. Your report will appear in Report View.
My report revealed that I have never used more than 1GB of data transfer in a month. That indicates to me that even if I use the iPhone to extend data services to my MacBook Air (or to the iPad 2 that will arrive…someday), I’m unlikely to hit the 4GB limit.
Now, do I need tethering? Let’s see…I needed it four times in the past week. I ended up gnashing my teeth in three instances when no one had the password for the local WiFi system or I wasn’t willing to pay a hefty fee for a 30 minutes of service. In the fourth instance, my friend Bruce graciously used his phone to tether my MacBook Air.
Once I was ready to make the switch to a tethering plan, I called AT&T (611 from the iPhone) and asked to talk with Customer Service. The switch took less than 30 seconds, and was effective immediately. (I made the switch at home, but realized you could do it in a situation such as being stuck at an airport, and have your WiFi right then and there.)
Once you have the tethering plan in place, go to Settings > General > Network and toggle Internet Tethering to On. You’ll see instructions for sharing the iPhone’s internet connection via USB or Bluetooth.